Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The King's Speech (Pathologist)

Happy 2011!   I hope that each and every member of the IHP community had a wonderful break, a good rest, and joins me in looking forward to a lively semester!   Part of my break time was filled with seeing a few films.   One that was memorable for me was "The King's Speech".  www.kingsspeech.com/

This film is receiving great reviews for the acting performance, the strong writing, and its historical significance.  I liked it for all of those reasons.  However, my reason for discussing "The King's Speech" in this blog is because of some important take home messages offered. 

First of all, let me reveal my bias.  I am a speech-language pathologist and spent many (wonderful) years working with people who stutter, helping young parents cope with their children's stuttering, dealing with prevention of bullying and teasing for PWS I(people who stutter), and  teaching masters and PhD students  in the area of fluency disorders.  It is safe to say that I care deeply about people who stutter and the challenges and compromised quality of life that many of them have experienced.   Given my "bias" and personal interest, it is no surprise that I had great interest in seeing this film.  I expect that many of my SLP colleagues around the world share this enthusiasm.

My great endorsement of this film, though, centers not so much on the interesting and unorthodox representation of speech therapy (by a passionate, devoted, quirky, charming, untrained) speech "therapist".  Rather, the great story of this film is it's portrayal of the stuttering experience by King George, the persistent and postive self motivation for healthy communication, and his accomplishment in coping with his fluency disorder in such a heroic manner.   I believe that the courage and devotion of King George is representative of many, probably most, of the PWS with whom I have been involved.   This part of the story rang true for me.

So, why write about it here?   This movie is so unique in its accurate representation of the stuttering experience.  I have, over the years collected episodes of television shows, cartoons (Porky Pig?), popular movies (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjbkBjYwc84), and some novels that have included persons who stutter as characters.  People who stutter are most often portrayed in these media as cognitively challenged, mentally unhealthy, shy, dangerous, or as the object of ridicule.   How difficult a road this has been for people who stutter.   I always think of that young child, sitting in the movie theater, when the Porky Pig character sputters out "Th-th-th-at's All FFFFFFolks".  How difficult, embarassing, and horrific it must be to have everyone in the room laughing at a caricature of your speech!  Many people who stutter have written about and spoken about this unfair and cruel portrayal as both hurtful and as adding to the burden of their communication problem.

 While this movie portrays the challenge and effort associated with stuttering realistically, it offers hope to people who stutter, portrays the work being done between the clinician and the patient in meaningful and effective ways, and demonstrates the positive result that can be acheived.   Given that 1 in 100 persons stutters, it is likely that all health care providers (not just SLPs) will deal with people who stutter over the course of their career.   My hope is that films such as "The King's Speech" will begin to challenge stereotypic and damaging views of stuttering for all of us!

Thanks for letting me share this "very biased' blog!  "That's All Folks."


  1. I saw The King's Speech this last weekend and agree that it was an excellent film. Of course I cannot speak to it's accuracy with regard to PWS as you can as a speech pathologist but I saw it with a friend who is an anglofile (she has read every book on the royal family in print) and she assures me that the film is historically accurate. I'm so glad to hear on both accounts that the film maker got it right.

    I thought it was interesting that playing the part of the arch bishop was Derek Jacobi who played a leader with a stutter in "I Claudius."

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and impressions about the film, and for sharing your sentiments regarding individuals who stutter. You are "right on!"
    Melanie W. Hudson, CCC-SLP